We live in a time in which many people who wear the name “Christian” are being killed. Various groups who keep track of Christian martyr data have wildly different counts of how many have died for their faith.
The Center for the Study of Global Christianity says that 90,000 Christians were martyred in 2019. The International Society for Human Rights says that 10,000 were martyred. Open Doors puts the number at 4,305. The problem here is that the definition of a “martyr” is not the same for everyone.
The Nazis killed Dietrich Bonhoeffer in World War II because he was involved in a plot to assassinate Adolph Hitler. His Christian faith was the reason he became involved in the plot. Does that make him a martyr? Christians were killed in civil wars in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan. Should they be classified as martyrs? There is a monument in Bicknell Park in Montebello, California, in memory of one of the worst genocides of the 20th century. Between 1915 and 1921, the Turkish government killed 1,500,000 Armenian Christians. Does that make all of them martyrs?
Martyrs have always been held up as examples of faithfulness. In today’s world, there are many countries where converting to Christianity is a sure way to be executed. The early Roman persecution of Christians is undeniable and uncontested. Determining Christian martyr data in our modern world varies by how we define “martyr.”
Those of us who live in the United States should be thankful that, so far, we don’t have to be worried about being singled out or killed by the government because of our worship. That may change, but we should thank God for the freedom Christians enjoy now in the U.S. and other countries.
Some have said that this is the only command of God that humans have fully obeyed. Whether that is true or not can be debated. There is also debate about whether there is enough food for the enormous population of humans inhabiting this planet. Every day organizations trying to stop the hunger stalking our planet send us heart-breaking pictures of starving people. Did God err in commanding humans to multiply and then not providing enough food? Can we produce enough food for the population with what God has given us?
February 3, 2020 issue of Time
carried a pictorial article about “planet-friendly eating.” The
article highlights companies that are producing food from plants and
insects. Some of the companies are:
1) Exo sells what they call “Cricket Protein Bar” and roasted crickets. They say that crickets are the perfect protein source, high in essential amino acids, B12, and iron.
2) Plenty grows salad greens indoors with wind and solar providing power. They plan to add strawberries to their production line.
3) Just (which was formerly known as Hampton Creek) produces an egg substitute from mung beans. You can buy it at Walmart.
4) Mosa Meat grows meat from animal cells cultured in a bioreactor. It won’t be practical until the cost can be reduced unless you want to buy a $280,000 hamburger.
5) Beyond Meatbypasses the animal cells to produce burgers and sausage from peas, beans, rice, and sunflower seeds. You can buy their product at thousands of grocery stores.
6) Odontella uses algae to produce a product with the texture and flavor of salmon. They call it Solmon, and it’s available in vegan grocery stores in Europe.
7) Huel makes drinks that are supposed to have the nutrition of a meal with 27 essential vitamins and minerals as well as protein, fat, fiber, and phytonutrients.
8) Solar Foods uses microbial fermentation of nutrients, water, and carbon dioxide to produce protein that resembles wheat flour.
Can we produce enough food using these new techniques? These ideas are encouraging because plants and insects can be grown inside so that pesticides or herbicides are not needed. Cultivation can be automated, reducing the massive overhead of conventional agriculture. Add to that, the fact that much of the food grown outside is wasted by pests, war, pollution, unpredictable weather, and bad agricultural practices.
American tastes may take a long time to adapt to these new foods, but a starving child in Africa is not concerned about how the food was produced if it satisfies hunger and provides nutrition. God has given us the means to produce all the food we need, but greed, waste, and ignorance have led to starvation and misery.
In December of 2019, people were placing videos on YouTube and other similar sites of “huge planes with large wingspans flying in formation over Colorado and Nevada.” Between December 19 and 21 of 2019, England’s second busiest airport was closed for about 33 hours, canceling hundreds of flights and affecting over 100,000 passengers because of confusing drones and alien invasions. There are always religionists and atheists who will attempt to use these sightings to promote their agenda. There are many causes for people to see things in the sky that they don’t understand. Satellites, stars, planets, planes, meteors, the International Space Station, military flares, helicopters, and now drones are on the list of reported UFOs.
Drones are used by journalists, photographers, police, railways, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, surveyors, Amazon.com, the military, and hobbyists. When it comes to drones and alien invasions, the Colorado Department of Public Safety issued an update on January 13, 2020, stating that they found no incidents that did not have a good explanation.
Some people claim that we need help from aliens to live successfully. They fail to realize that the instructions on how to live are available, and people all over the world are living by them. They are simply following the teachings of Christ. (I don’t mean the teachings of any religious person.) It isn’t that we don’t know what to do. We need to eliminate the greed, selfishness, ignorance, and desire for fame and notoriety that is producing the new wave of claims of extraterrestrial visitation.This was the case in the past, and history is merely repeating itself. Even the entertainment industry is jumping on board with a new movie about the return of E.T.
We want to say again that we are not suggesting that there is no life elsewhere in the cosmos, and the Bible doesn’t say that either. What we have, however, is many vulnerable people being exploited because of their loss of faith in God. That has caused them to search in the wrong places for a better and a more abundant way to live. That is true of both secular and religious shysters. Jesus said “I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). That doesn’t mean buying into any human-made religion or personality. It means living as Christ has called us to live.
Yesterday we discussed the push for euthanasia in secular society.We have received a massive reaction to the euthanasia article. Several people have asked what states in the U.S. allow assisted suicide. In addition to Washington, D.C., those states are California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.
We received information about Professor Theo Boer, a Dutch ethicist who was a major supporter of the Netherlands’ 2002 Euthanasia legislation. Boer wrote to the British House of Lords in 2014, “We were wrong, terribly wrong. Assisted dying in the beginning was the odd exception, accepted by many including myself as a last resort.” He pointed out that what happened was that many patients who received euthanasia were patients who were depressed, lonely, or in bereavement. In Switzerland a woman paid to be euthanized because she no longer felt pretty. He concludes by saying, “Public opinion has shifted dramatically toward considering assisted dying a patient’s right and a physician’s duty.”
In Oregon, physician-assisted suicide was legalized in 1997 “for cases of suffering from terminal disease.” In 2018 a followup study found that 75% of the people who died by assisted suicide said their pain control was adequate, but over 50% were concerned about being a burden to their families.
We also received a story of Karen Welch, who was a missionary in Belgium. During a routine surgery, blood was cut off to her brain resulting in a stroke. After several days, doctors told her husband that her MRI showed dead brain cells and that there was no hope for her recovery. “Your wife will be a vegetable,” Mr. Welch was told. The medical establishment recommended euthanasia. To make a long story short, Karen Welch eventually walked out of the hospital, and that December, she played the piano and sang at the Belgium School Chapel Christmas program.
As we said in our original article, euthanasia is a highly complex issue. The reaction to the euthanasia article we posted indicates that people are concerned about the issue. Until you are involved in a personal situation where euthanasia is offered as a simple and inexpensive solution, it is easy to give simplistic answers. The critical thing to remember is that humans are not just animals. We are created in the image of God, so we must treat every human life as special.
One of the spin offs of the approval of abortion has been the advancement of euthanasia. In virtually every country that has approved abortion, there has been an eventual acceptance of euthanasia, allowing a doctor to administer fatal drugs to a patient.
Abortion was instituted in Portugal in 2007, and in February 2020, Portugal’s parliament approved euthanasia for terminally ill people. Portugal now joins six other countries in sanctioning euthanasia – Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. In the United States, medically assisted suicide is permitted in which patients administer the lethal drug themselves.
The issues involved in the advancement of euthanasia are very complex. No one wants a loved one to continue suffering when eventual recovery does not seem to be possible. I have a family member who is in that situation. Prostate and Bone cancer have progressed to brain cancer, and the burden to family caregivers, the expense, and the level of pain present are all huge issues. In the progress of the disease, who would decide to administer euthanasia? The patient may not be able to make it. Family members may not want the emotional strain of making the decision, and who would trust the decision to the state? Other factors include when did the patient realize they were going to die? How important is closure for those left behind, especially children? Can doctors be wrong about a terminal diagnosis?
First Corinthians 3:16-17 tells us that the Holy Spirit dwells in us. The context of that passage and others is that God uses His children to reach out through His Spirit to help others. Paul, in Philippians 1:20-30, talks about being ready to die. He wrote, “For I am in a strait between the two, having a desire to depart and to be with Christ which is far better. Nevertheless, to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.” He talks about how he can help others and, for that reason, wants to continue to live.
One of the banners carried by protesters in Portugal says, “Euthanasia doesn’t end suffering, it ends life.” That is so very true. It isn’t the end of suffering for family, for friends, for those you have tried to teach, for those considering their own lives. In this day, there is no reason for physical suffering because medical science has ways to stop the physical pain. Ending life prematurely will generate pain for others. How long will it be after euthanasia is accepted before the state will determine who should survive and who should be euthanized?
The fundamental factor in the advancement of euthanasia centers around the value of a human being. If we consider humans to be special and created in the image of God, then human life is sacrosanct. Animal life does not have that same image of God, and survival of the fittest is in control in the animal world. If humans are just animals, then killing a human is no more of a problem than killing a bug. In that case, inconvenient or unfit humans, like all other animals, can just be eliminated. This is not a trivial issue, but one that deserves thoughtful attention.
Recently an atheist challenged me on the notion of faith. His definition was, “Faith is jumping to a conclusion when you don’t know the answer.” He went on to say that faith is not a virtue. He was following a version of the “god of gaps” concept, which says that God is what you invent when you can’t explain something. It views faith as a negative, blind response that stifles the individual and stops the thinking process cold. Truly, then, what is faith?
The definition of faith in the Bible is ambiguous. Two Greek words are translated “faith.” One is “elpis” used in passages like Hebrews 10:23. The other is “pistis” used in passages like Hebrews 11:1. The lexicon tells us that “elpis” refers to hope. If you look at Hebrews 10:23, you can see that the use is not blind, but general. “Pistis” refers to steadiness or steadfastness, but it is not blind.
Much of modern science is based on faith. The “big bang theory” is a faith concept. It is based on a great deal of evidence, but it cannot be tested or falsified in any way. We might be more inclined to call it a conclusion than a faith. Evolution is based on several acts of faith. One of those is uniformitarianism, which says that no process has operated in the past that is not operational today. Natural selection (survival of the fittest) is a faith concept. We repeatedly find situations where the fittest don’t survive, so we have to modify the concept. Evidence becomes a factor here. Can we find a cause for the fit not surviving?
Quantum mechanics started as a faith. Hebrews 11:3 tells us that “through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” As scientific research progressed, scientists saw evidence that led them to believe (have faith) that what they observed was being caused by things that they couldn’t see or detect at the time. What is faith if it is not built gradually on evidence?
Hebrews 11 describes in detail what it means to have faith in God and act on His instructions. Various cases are highlighted to illustrate people who acted by faith without a practical understanding of why they were doing what they were doing. Did they do it blindly? Abraham, for example, is one of those whom the Hebrew writer tells us functioned by faith. Did Abraham act blindly? As you read the history of the life of Abraham, you see that he had many experiences that built his faith. This history is reviewed in Hebrews 11:8-19. Reading his story in Genesis, you see Abraham having experience after experience, which gave him a steadfast faith to sustain him.
What is faith to us? Why is our faith different? The answer to that is evidence.Our experiences in life, our education, our study, our failures, our successes, and what we have seen, can all build our faith in God, or destroy it. Faith is never blind. Our faith is either something that works, builds us up, and blesses us, or leads us to despair and destructive actions. Hebrews 11 describes what faith can accomplish. Verses 33-40 tell us that through faith, people have “subdued kingdoms, brought righteousness, obtained promises … God having provided a better thing for us.”
This ministry exists to build up faith and give all of us confidence that ultimately we will have something better. That is our most enduring faith, and massive amounts of evidence support it.
As I write this in Mid-February of 2020, over 2000 people have died from the coronavirus known as SARS-COV-2 or COVID-19. The cause of the virus has been the subject of many television shows, research papers, and religious rants. Scientific evidence concerning the virus is pretty clear, but the media has spread wild claims by nutritionists, religionists, and holistic practitioners that have misled many people. It is essential to separate the snake oil sellers from valid research and holistic claims from valid medical treatment. What is the origin of disease?
There are always religious extremists who will say that diseases like the Coronavirus are God’s punishment for sinful human beings. That claim violates the nature of God, and it is unsupported by the evidence. James 1:17 tells us that God is the giver of every “good and perfect” gift, and verse 13 clearly indicates that He does not tempt us with evil. Jesus never sent disease or punishment on any human being–not even Judas. By the same token, God does not prevent the natural consequences of sin or bad choices. Judas chose to destroy himself, but God did not strike him dead. It would be contrary to God’s nature to send a disease that would kill innocent people for any reason, and children and older adults are dying from this coronavirus.
So what is the origin of disease and the COVID-19 virus? Virtually all of the infectious diseases that humans experience are transmitted to humans from animals. HIV came into the human population from monkeys, and the SARs group of viruses came from animals. Many viral agents cause no problems for an animal, but when they are transmitted to humans, the virus runs wild and can kill. HIV causes no problems in monkeys, but when it gets into the human body, the result can be death. The coronavirus started in Wuhan, China, and appears to have begun in the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. Eating animals that are carrying the virus or keeping animals with the virus as pets make it easy for humans to become infected.
The Bible was written long before people understood bacteria, viruses, or the importance of personal hygiene. Despite that, it advised hygiene practices and ways of securing and preparing food that minimized the chance of epidemics like the one we are experiencing now. It appears that animals in China carried the virus, and due to Chinese diets and food preparation methods, it got a foothold in humans. COVID-19 creates an acute respiratory syndrome disease that quickly spreads from human to human and especially threatens people with weak respiratory systems.
As a public high school science teacher with 41 years of experience, I have watched with interest the struggle over school prayer. We recently reported on the United States government easing restrictions. At the same time, we must be cautious about potential problems of prayer in public schools.
At one time, I taught at Jackson High School in South Bend, Indiana. The school was aware that I traveled on weekends giving lectures on why I believe God exists. They decided to allow the students an opportunity to hear my presentations. There were some atheist attempts to get me fired for doing that, but they had failed. Even though I traveled on weekends, I never missed a day of school because of the lectureships. I also never brought my material into the classroom. I was hired to teach physics, chemistry, and earth science, and that is what I did. I gave my presentations during what was called “mini-courses” during the homeroom period. The students could choose to hear me in the school auditorium, or use the swimming pool, or shoot baskets in the gym, or attend a class on ballroom dancing, or play cards in the cafeteria. The school enrollment was around 1600, and we had over 1000 who came to the auditorium.
1) Students can pray, read their Bible and other religious material, and talk about their faith at school.
2) Students can organize prayer groups or religious clubs and promote the meetings.
3) Students can express their faith in classwork and homework.
4) Teachers can organize prayer groups and Bible studies with other teachers.
5) Students may be able to go off campus to have religious studies during school hours.
6) Students can express their faith at a school event.
7) Students can express their faith at their graduation ceremony.
I’m sure that the FRC had lawyers involved in preparing this, and many of their ideas are very good. But they may be an invitation to potential problems of prayer in public schools. They may not understand what goes on in a public high school like James Whitcomb Riley High School in South Bend, Indiana, where I taught in for 41 years. For example, how do you control students going off campus? Maybe their religion promotes free love and rejection of parents. Are kids allowed to go for all religious classes? If not, which ones? Is the school facility going to be used to have meetings of religious clubs, and, if so, who is responsible for what goes on? If one student expresses their faith at a school event, do you have to allow every student who has a faith of any kind to share it? These are a few of the potential problems of prayer in public schools.
Jesus made it clear that the Church is not to be a part of the state (Matthew 22:21 ). If the state is providing education in math, English, science, etc., it cannot become an arena of religious conflict. A politician can have a religious faith, but the floor of the congress is not the place to promote doctrinal principles. The public school cannot be that either.
So has this instruction, which humans have followed better than most of God’s commands, caused climate change?Should we all become vegetarians? Is veganism a solution to global warming and animal cruelty?
People have raised these questions in opposition to God, and to avoid the destruction of our planet. More than that, Peter Singer, in his book Animal Liberation, claimed that all animals are intelligent, feel emotions, and feel pain. He suggests that inflicting pain on animals is a barbaric tradition, and is unethical for modern humans. In addition to these objections, we have those who refuse to eat any animal products considering them to be unhealthy. Vegans avoid all dairy products, eggs, and any animal-based foods.
Certainly, humans are free to choose what their diet will be if they live in an area where a variety of foods are available. The reality, however, is that God designed humans to be omnivores. The statement of Genesis 9:1-3 recognizes that fact, and our bodies demonstrate it. Our teeth are made to both cut and to grind. Our digestive system is designed to handle a wide variety of foods. We are not only designed to eat many kinds of foods, but overloads of any one food type can cause problems for us. Too much plant-based sugar is not a healthy diet. Too many beans or too much honey can cause digestive issues for many of us. Many people have food allergies, especially if we eat those foods in large quantities. Having a balanced diet is critical to good health, and vegan diets can be unhealthy.
Raising animals does generate greenhouse gases, but grazing livestock causes only seven percent of the total greenhouse gases.Raising enough crops to supply the needs of all humans means deforestation and the use of pesticides, fertilizer, fungicides, and herbicides. In many places, growing food by planting crops is impossible, but animals can survive in those areas. Small-scale farmers totaling 1.3 billion people survive on animal products in places where relying solely on plant nutrients is impossible. Is veganism a solution for those people? It’s not even an option.
Any animal must indeed be able to feel pain to survive. The notion that raising animals for food is cruel and inhumane is short-sighted. Animals living in the wild can experience enormous pain. If a cow or goat escapes from its owner, it is in great danger from carnivores that do not dispatch their prey with no concern for their pain. Cattle raised with protection from carnivores, terrible weather, and disease are far better off than in the challenging environment of the wilderness. Is veganism a solution to animal cruelty or global warming? Not really.
A cow is not a human in a different body. They have no awareness of self, and instinctive drives dominate their behavior. While we anthropomorphize animal behavior (interpret what they do in human terms), the fact is that animals were created in amazing ways to survive. But animals do not have the spiritual properties that humans have.
In a recent discussion about global warming, a man said to me that we would be better of if we could get rid of all the ice on Earth. I’m sure some of that sentiment came because we were in the midst of an ice storm. We get lots of snow in Michigan, but when the temperature is zero degrees outside, we don’t see freezing rain, just snow. Another member of the discussion pointed out the need for ice so he could do his favorite sport of ice fishing. In truth, the importance of ice is more than just ice-fishing or winter sports.
The design of the water molecule allows us to have ice, and without it, planet Earth would be in serious trouble. The water molecule is polar, meaning that it has a positive end and a negative end. When water freezes, the positive end of one molecule attaches to the negative end of another molecule. If the temperature is low enough, we have a rigid form of water we call ice.
Many people don’t realize the importance of ice. It is a major design feature of Earth and its ecosystems. Ice has a lower density than liquid water, which allows lakes to freeze from the top. That provides winter protection for all the life that lives in water environments. Marine and freshwater life-forms of both animals and plants could not exist if it were not for the design of the water molecule and the formation of ice.
Ice is also a significant controller of the water cycle on Earth. Job 37:6 indicates that snow is a conscious creation of God. Job 38:22 speaks of the “treasures of the snow” which God says He has “reserved against a time of trouble.” People living in the western United States can tell you of the importance of snow and ice, which locks up water in the winter so that it is available during the heat of the summer. If all the ice on planet Earth melted, what would happen to the sea level? There are debates about how much the oceans would rise, but there is no question but that the state of Florida would be submerged.
Ice in the form of snow cleans our air. It provides insulation in very cold places allowing mammals to survive underground during the winter months. We should not underestimate the importance of ice because it is truly a treasure in whatever form it comes. We must do what we can to maintain the water cycle and the balance that God built into the design of planet Earth.